DBM releases P3 billion fuel subsidies, discounts amid surging oil prices
To ease the burden inflicted by skyrocketing oil prices, a total of P3 billion in subsidies and funding to cover discounts for public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and agricultural producers, respectively, were released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Thursday.
In a statement, the DBM said the P2.5 billion for the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) fuel subsidy program, plus P500 million for the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) fuel discount program would “provide targeted assistance to affected sectors and cushion the impact of the consecutive oil price hikes in the past three months.”
The money came from the two agencies’ respective budgets under the P5.02-trillion 2022 national budget.
“Under the fuel subsidy program, financial assistance amounting to P6,500 will be directly provided not only to affected jeepney drivers but also to qualified drivers of UV express, mini buses, buses, shuttle services, taxis, tricycles, and other full-time ride-hailing (such as transport network vehicle service or TNVS and motorcycle taxis) and delivery services nationwide. The identified 377,443 beneficiaries may claim the subsidy through cash cards from the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank),” the DBM said.
“The Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has coordinated with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) for the identification of beneficiaries, particularly on the list of qualified tricycle drivers, ride-hailing services and delivery services, respectively,” the DBM added.
As for the fuel discounts, the DBM said these will be extended to “farmers and fisherfolk who own agricultural or fishery machinery, either individually or through organizations.”
“The fuel discount can be claimed through fuel discount cards, which will be issued in partnership with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). The fuel discount cards will then be distributed by regional field offices of the DA to eligible beneficiaries. Finally, the recipients can present their fuel discount cards to the contracted oil companies or gas stations and claim a maximum amount of P3,000 fuel discount,” the DBM said.
President Duterte’s economic team had committed to give away these fuel subsidies in late February, but it took some time for implementing agencies to submit the documentary requirements sought by the DBM before fund release.
The government will tap excess revenues for the additional, second tranche of fuel subsidies and discounts that the economic team proposed to President Duterte be granted to vulnerable sectors next month.
Last Monday, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told President Duterte that among the mitigating measures proposed by the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) included doubling to P5 billion the fuel subsidy program for PUVs.
“We will double the subsidy, and the first tranche will be given in March, and the second tranche in April,” said Chua, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
The Neda chief added that the economic team wanted to more than double the amount of fuel vouchers for agricultural producers to P1.1 billion, across two tranches to be granted this month and next month. “By that time, we will have additional revenues to fund these subsidies,” he said.
Neda Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said last Tuesday that they were awaiting tax-collection figures in March, as excess revenues would fund unprogrammed appropriations in the budget. Besides extra amounts exceeding the revenue program, foreign borrowings also funded unprogrammed budget items.
National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon also last Tuesday confirmed that revenue collections would likely exceed the program by the time additional fuel subsidies needed to be disbursed. “I understand that extra fuel subsidies will be in April. We have the excess revenues by then to finance,” she said. But De Leon would not say where these expected excess revenues would come from.
Also, Chua told President Duterte that the government will continue working with private firms to sustain the promotional P1-4 per liter discount being offered by oil companies to PUVs like jeepneys.